Every day, an estimated 60 to 70 people move to Charlotte, North Carolina. Nice as it is to be popular, the city is learning that unless it plans accordingly, the fast-paced growth resulting from its desirability will present some real challenges moving forward. To get a handle on the current status of housing in the region, community leaders and local elected officials turned to the REALTORS® for help.
“We’re fortunate in having an excellent resource in the real estate department at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Charlotte,” says Terri Marshall, Executive Director of the Housing Opportunity Foundation associated with the Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association (CRRA). In 2017, CRRA’s leadership approached the university’s Childress Klein Center for Real Estate and asked if it would undertake a five-year study of the state of housing in the greater Charlotte region. The initial report, released in February 2019 and clocking in at more than 80 pages, provides a valuable benchmark analysis of the city and eight surrounding counties. In addition to funding from a REALTOR® Party Housing Opportunity Grant, CRRA contributed eight-counties’ worth of MLS data to the project – and will continue to do so for another five years. The overriding finding, says Marshall, is that “We’re just not delivering enough housing, and the supply crunch is driving prices up steadily, at all levels of owner-occupied and rental housing.”
Joe Padilla, CRRA’s Government Affairs Director who worked closely with Marshall on the effort, explains that because affordable housing concerns are not limited to the city of Charlotte itself, it was important to take the outlying counties into account: “As the report states up front, no analysis of the Charlotte market would be complete without understanding its suburban markets. We share a responsibility to develop ample affordable housing for the growing population. If a county’s not allowing homes to be constructed at price points that are accessible to buyers at all income levels, it’s going to face difficulties down the road,” he notes, adding, “The report is generally positive, but it’s a wake-up call for all of us, as well as a road map.”
In committing five years’ support to the study, the REALTORS® were joined by a strong coalition of partners including the Foundation for the Carolinas, the Piedmont Public Policy Institute, the Charlotte Housing Authority, and numerous other industry leaders. The initial study was rolled out at the Summit on the State of Housing in Charlotte in February, an event that drew more than 300 participants – with more on a waiting list. “UNC is a research organization, and the study is the presentation of its findings, not a policy paper,” says Marshall. She adds, “But the Childress Klein Center did a phenomenal job of putting two panels together for the summit, and that was where stakeholders and city leaders began to talk policy. It brought about the most unifying discussions I’ve encountered in a very long time. Our involvement in the process has positioned the REALTORS® to be, more than ever, the voice of housing in Charlotte.”
“This has filled a real need,” agrees Padilla. “As our community leaders are planning and looking ahead, they can refer to this benchmark report and say, ‘What does the UNC study say?’” He notes that the effort complements Charlotte’s pro-active and responsible stance towards its housing challenges: a major affordable housing bond was recently approved on the ballot in Charlotte, and each year as the successive UNC studies are released, annual roll-out summits will focus on policies, solutions, and next-steps. For his part, he is hoping to expand the study’s impact by bringing some of the UNC study’s authors out in to the surrounding counties to meet with local chambers of commerce, REALTORS®, and homebuilder associations. “It would be great to sit down together and focus on the data specific to each county. The analysis has been done; now it’s time to share in a meaningful and productive way!”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Charlotte are working to address the affordable housing crisis in their region, contact Terri Marshall, Executive Director of the Housing Opportunity Foundation of the Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association, at 704-940-3148; or Joe Padilla, its Government Affairs Director, at 704-940-3174.